Elmhurst may study development choices at 5 sites

The future of five intersections or corridors in Elmhurst could come into sharper focus as the city considers hiring a consultant to provide a vision for potential developments.

Called subarea plans, the designs would give examples of buildings that could be developed and businesses that could succeed in five parts of the city identified as most needing scrutiny, say planners with potential consultant Houseal Lavigne Associates of Chicago.

The firm would review site conditions and traffic at each site, meet with property and business owners, and interview nearby stakeholders to draw up examples of what types of retail, housing or other uses could be viable, said John Houseal, principal and co-founder.

"The vision for an area should come from the community," Houseal said. "We have to articulate the vision."

The plans would focus on the business district at York and Vallette streets, the Lake Street corridor between Route 83 and York Street, a one-block area at First and York streets downtown, several blocks of Butterfield Road west of York Street, and the intersection of North Avenue and Route 83.

Aldermen on the city council's development, planning and zoning committee voiced early support for hiring Houseal Lavinge to create the plans as part of a $74,500 contract.

Alderman Mike Honquest said the sites are on well-traveled roads, making them ripe for development.

Houseal said there are pros and cons to business development along busy roads. Exposure to commuters, for example, can cause access problems, especially during rush hours.

But the plans his company develops would be detailed enough to address traffic patterns and suggest businesses that would succeed within them.

"We will get to that level of specificity so the developer knows the challenges," Houseal said, "and the best shot at mitigating them."

Aldermen asked whether the five sites would be studied at the same time, or if certain spots could be fast-tracked if developers show early interest. Houseal said it's best to work through all five locations at the same pace, likely during a nine- to 12-month span.

Alderman Scott Levin, chairman of the development, planning and zoning committee, said money is available in the budget to fund the plans, which the full city council is set to begin considering Monday.

Studying the sites could be the next step in city planning conducted by Houseal Lavigne Associates in Elmhurst, which also has included recent work on a downtown plan update last year, the North York Street corridor plan in 2014 and a downtown parking study in 2013.

"Good plans will entice the private sector to invest," Houseal said.

  The business district at York and Vallette streets in Elmhurst is one of five sites that could be studied for its economic development possibilities if the city hires a consultant to develop plans. Daniel White/
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